Nina Gerber's Real-World Rig

AG 241 January 2013 Cover

Posted by Teja Gerken

Since getting her start as a member of Kate Wolf’s band in the 1970s, Northern California guitarist Nina Gerber has played with Karla Bonoff, Greg Brown, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, and dozens of others. Jumping between many types of gigs and fitting in with an ever-changing assortment of musical surroundings not only puts incredible demands on Gerber’s musicianship, it also requires a flexible rig that can get the job done night after night. 

Gerber’s acoustic sound starts with either a Froggy Bottom jumbo (which she says sounds great for bluesy material and open tunings) or a David Matlin 00 (which used to belong to Kate Wolf, and which she says she plays “for sentimental reasons,” as well as it being a “beautiful sounding instrument”), both of which have undersaddle pickups and internal mics: a Highlander pickup and mic in the Froggy Bottom, and a B-Band pickup and Highlander mic in the Matlin. “I tried the Highlander pickup in the Matlin, and it didn’t sound as good as it did in the Froggy,” she says. “So I tried the B-Band pickup. Bob [Wolstein] at Highlander rewired something to make the Highlander mic and B-Band pickup compatible. The B-Band has a little more bass response, which is good for the Matlin, since it is a smaller guitar.”

The signals leave the guitars via a stereo cable and travel to a rack-mounted Pendulum SPS-1 preamp, with control on the guitar provided by a Pendulum pickup/mic module that plugs in to the guitar’s output jack. Gerber uses a Rocktron Intellifex (no longer in production) multi-effect unit, which she says is mostly there to provide reverb and the occasional chorus effect to “fatten things up.” She also finds that adding a little chorus can help when the band is slightly out of tune.

Gerber finds that a combination of pickup and internal mic is crucial for achieving her sound. “The microphone is what’s going to make the guitar sound as natural as possible, so I’m going to try to lead with the mic in the house mix,” she says. “I always try to get at least 70 percent microphone.” She also finds that being able to send the pickup and mic signals to the mixing board separately—which the Pendulum preamp allows her to do—is important. “By sending the sound guy two separate lines, he can send me more pickup in the monitor, so I don’t have to worry about feedback problems,” she says. Similarly, she sends just the pickup signal to an AER Alpha amp, which serves as her own personal guitar monitor onstage.“I take just the pickup signal from the monitor out of the Pendulum, and go into the AER, so what comes out here is just my pickup and nothing else,” she says. “If I don’t get enough of my guitar in the front monitor, I’m able to fill up the sound I need with the AER.”


What She Plays

Acoustic Guitars: Froggy Bottom jumbo with Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a spruce top. David Matlin 00 with koa back and sides and a spruce top.

Pickups: Highlander iP-2 system with undersaddle pickup and internal microphone in the Froggy Bottom. B-Band undersaddle pickup and internal Highlander microphone in the Matlin.

Preamp: Pendulum SPS-1 Preamp with pickup/mic module.

Amplifier: AER Alpha.

Effects: Rocktron Intellifex LTD multi-effect processor.

Strings: John Pearse phosphor bronze light gauge.

Flatpick: Jim Dunlop Delrin 500 1.5 mm. 

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar January 2013

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